In Deserving Appreciation

November 16, 2007

There has long been something of a debate here at Yesterday’s Salad over the proper place of literary criticism in both the academy-at-large and Yesterday’s Salad-in-small. I’ve even been accused of having a “roulette wheel of literary theory terms” which I use when the mood strikes me, or when I run out of other things to write about. While there is too much truth in that statement for comfort, it does not explain my attraction to theory. Harold Bloom once wrote that he found equally little value in both the traditional criticism of M.H. Abrams and the deconstruction of Jacques Derrida [sic/Breaking the Vessels]. As someone deeply committed to both the study of post-Colonial Feminist thought, and traditional literary readings, I hold the exact opposite view (which Bloom probably holds as well), and find great value in “each” type of reading, both as literature, and as something to further my appreciation of other texts. So it is with great pleasure that I now offer a few words of praise and congratulations to Professor Ruth Wisse on her receipt of a National Humanities Medal.

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The award reads, “The 2007 National Humanities Medal to Ruth R. Wisse for her scholarship and teaching that have illuminated Jewish literary traditions. Her insightful writings have enriched our understanding of Yiddish literature and Jewish culture in the modern world.” (source)

While I agree with all those things, I would like to add a few more. First, Professor Wisse is one of the exceptional specialists whose work transcends her specialty. Her criticism has enriched our knowledge of literature in general, not only of Jewish literature. The Modern Jewish Canon, though focused on Jewish texts, makes important contributions to the study of theme and the effects of geographical displacement.

I’d also like to draw attention to her work for Commentary where she has shown herself to be a skilled essayist and commentator on all aspects of life. In honour of her award, Commentary has posted two of her articles (as well as the work of other metal recipients) on their website. None of this, however, compares to her work as a blogger (!). Her post on Drew Faust’s ascension to the Harvard Presidency is particularly good.

But above all else are her skills as a reader, which are among the greatest of her, or any, generation.

Ever since I moved in with shepicksyournose (who is a hippie), I have been more vigilant about recycling. “Real” garbage goes in the garbage can, bottles and cans (of beer, oh my!) go in the blue garbage, and paper and cardboard…get tossed in the corner of the room and behind the real garbage until such time as I gather the pile up in my arms piece by piece and throw it all out in the BIG paper garbage can outside the building. This much I have learned.

And to be honest, I feel better about it (my recycled garbage). I even separate my trash at work…though I recently watched the custodial lady for the office building “empty” my recycling bin by reaching into it with her hands, pulling the recyclable trash out, and disappearing into the hallway…where I know for a fact (a fact! a pact! a little bit a tact!) that she’s got only one garbage bag in her little yellow cart. So let me be clear about something before I say what I am about to say: I think it is a good thing that New York City advocates its recycling program.

However, if the city really wants to get people to recycle, it should probably spend more time and money impressing their target demographic…you know…people who live in the general realm of this decade.

I just saw a recycling commercial for New York’s program. On first viewing, I thought it had been retrofitted, culturally, to the 1980s. Later, I saw the commercial again. And then I thought, “Wait a minute. This commercial is actually from The 80s!”

Internet! Teach me!

  1. Found the web page for the recycling program: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/at_home/at_home.shtml.
  2. Browsed, looking for a page that might have video.
  3. After a few seconds. I found what I was looking for. I got lucky. I could have browsed forever, considering where that page was tucked away. Forever. On the Internet, that means four and a half minutes!
  4. Scrolled (like a man so bold!) down the page, in search of a poster image that matched up with the commercial I had just seen. Found that poster image.
  5. Discovered (like a man uncovered!) that the commercial was not as old as I had thought. It last appeared, before 2007, in 2004. Although, according to the page, the commercial was originally developed in 2001.
  6. Except I scrolled down some more, and saw the same poster image, for a set of commercials developed in 1997 and 1998 (practically the 1980s!).
  7. A recycled recycling commercial! What’s next? A bird watcher from Texas who stalks and snipes cats under a bridge?
  8. But then I saw with my own eyes…that I was wrong.

Upon closer inspection…the truth…as reported by Internet:

They are all different commercials. The characters were conceived in 1997. Ten years ago. New York City is just trying to keep up a storyline. You know, stay with a consistent brand image. And, anyway, the commercials are pretty entertaining.

So what’s the problem? Why do all of you have to be so critical all the time?

Please recycle.

I! Am! Ibiteyoureyes!